Pearls and Irritations is influential and widely read, with outstanding authors writing about important current events. There are no sponsors and subscriptions are free – our editors and authors are independent, dedicated and generous. Please encourage your friends to subscribe. We have over 5,500 subscribers and would welcome more.

Readers may be interested in direct links to categories and our two popular series, Making housing affordable and Freedom opportunity and security. See links above in the black ribbon under our header image.

MUNGO MacCALLUM. The Australian again supports Trump against Turnbull.

Let’s face it, it was hardly surprising to find Malcolm Turnbull taking the piss out of Donald Trump. For starters, just about everyone does it – indeed, for much of the time The Donald seems to be doing it himself.   Continue reading

Posted in Media, Politics | 3 Comments

CAVAN HOGUE. Our white man’s media.

For our media, the UK and the US are more or less ‘down town’.  Continue reading

Posted in Media | 1 Comment

JUSUF WANANDI. Tribute to ambassador Richard Woolcott

Jusuf Wanandi pays tribute to Dick Woolcott, former Ambassador to Indonesia and Secretary of the Department of FOreign Affairs and Trade, on his 90th birthday.   Throughout his long career Woolcott has been a friend to Indonesia. Continue reading

Posted in Australia and Asia, Foreign Affairs | 1 Comment

MICHAEL WALKER. Three strategies unions are considering for their survival

There are three strategies unions, in danger of lsing their relevance,  can consider for their survival:  Teaming up with other community groups, aligning with particular professions and finding members online.

Continue reading

Posted in Industrial relations, Politics | 1 Comment

GRAHAM FREUDENBERG. His speech at the Graham Freudenberg Tribute Dinner, 2 June 2017

On 2 June, the NSW Branch of the Labor Party hosted a dinner for Graham Freudenberg, former speechwriter for federal and state Labor leaders, including Arthur Calwell, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, Neville Wran, Barrie Unsworth, Bob Carr and Simon Crean. This is a transcript of his speech at that dinner – personal reflections and recollections of the people he has travelled with in his more than 40 years of service to the Labor Party and to Australia.
Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Politics | Leave a comment

GRAHAM FREUDENBERG. Revising history 1914-2017

For octogenarians like me, the most astonishing development since the collapse of the Soviet Union is that so much of the West’s hopes for international sanity, civility and peace should now rest with, of all countries, Germany.   Continue reading

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | 7 Comments

JENNY HOCKING. Pressure Builds on Turnbull Over the Secret ‘Palace Letters’ on the Dismissal of the Whitlam Government

Pressure is building on the Prime Minister to intervene in the long-running dispute over the release of the ‘Palace letters’, the secret correspondence between the Queen and the Governor-General Sir John Kerr in the months before Kerr’s 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government. These letters are held by the National Archives in Canberra where they have been designated as ‘personal’ not official correspondence and embargoed ‘on the instructions’ of the Queen until at least 2027, with her private secretary retaining a final veto over their release even after that date. The reality is that we as Australians do not own our history while these historic letters, written at the height of our greatest constitutional crisis, remain hidden from us at the behest of the Queen.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Black Hearts Behind Australia’s Offshore Detention Policy

So, the Australian Government has settled a class action brought by asylum seekers detained on Manus Island for $70,000,000. Apparently, the settlement was reached because the Government was fearful of the evidence and stories of official abuse that would have emerged over some six months should the action have been litigated in court. Lawyers in the case estimated that more than 70 witnesses would have been called and 200,000 documents examined. Afraid of the findings, the Government caved in at the door of the Court.  Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Refugees and asylum seekers | 4 Comments

RAMESH THAKUR. Nuclear-free New Zealand turns 30

The 1987 nuclear-free act was a milestone in New Zealand’s development as a nation.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 2 Comments

JOHN CARMODY. May day was in June

The only word to describe Theresa May’s unnecessary recent decision to call an early election in Britain is “hubris” and that hubris has now led to irremediable humiliation. “Strong and stable” could have described her political position before the election, but as a campaign slogan, delivered with numbingly motoric repetition, it became risible as “Jobson Growth” had been in Australia last year.  

Continue reading

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

MICK PALMER. Australia’s Illicit Drugs Policy – There Really is a better Way

For over half a century Australian Governments have relied heavily on law enforcement to curb the drug trade, but, despite increasingly sophisticated and efficient policing strategies and operations Australia’s illicit drugs problems have continued getting bigger and the marketplace ever more dangerous, and prosperous If we are to improve the outcomes we achieve we have to stop simply being “tough on drugs” and start being “smart about drugs”. There is a way, we have a responsibility to explore it.  Continue reading

Posted in Health, Human Rights | 3 Comments

ALLAN PATIENCE. Advance Australia!

Madness in the Coalition’s ranks over the Finkel report and sleaziness in ALP ranks over clandestine foreign donations are just the latest evidence that the current pack of parliamentarians is incapable of governing in the interests of all Australians. What this country needs is a strong political enema to clean out the political constipation from which the country is now suffering.  Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Politics | 2 Comments

RAMESH THAKUR. Strong anti-nuclear weapons advocacy by Asia-Pacific leaders.


Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to humanity and indeed to all forms of life on planet Earth. Serious threats persist from the use or misuse of weapons – whether by design, accident or system malfunction – by nuclear-armed states and terrorist actors, and from the misuse of the civil fuel cycle.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 1 Comment

JOHN WARHURST. We need a royal commission into the corruption and decay of Australian politics.


This week’s ABC Four Corners program that revisited, after 30 years, Chris Masters’ revelations of police corruption in Queensland, “The Moonlight State”, brings to mind how widespread corruption in Australian politics has been since then.  Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Vested Interests | 3 Comments


During more than a century, our Anglo-allies fought several highly-publicised wars, but also many secret ones, directly or through proxies. If we don’t know the details, people in whose countries the wars were fought certainly do, and those who survived have not forgotten them.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 3 Comments

MICHAEL KEATING. An appreciation of Ian Marsh.

Ian Marsh who passed away last week, was a highly original thinker with the genuine curiosity of a true intellectual.

Ian liked to describe himself as one of the last ‘Deakinite Liberals’. This apt description reflected:

  1. Ian’s contributions to industrial policy, and especially how the state can help foster innovation, and
  2. Ian’s preference for a more consensual negotiated approach to policy making, such as applied during the first decade of the Australian parliament. 

Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Federal Election 2016, Politics, Tributes | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

RICHARD BUTLER. Turnbull, Trump and the Alliance

Trump’s presidency is in deep jeopardy. There is serious instability in the US polity. Political leaders of virtually all countries comparable to Australia are stepping back from, loosening, their relationship with the United States. Prime Minister Turnbull, alone, is not. Instead we are buying massively costly US military equipment and Turnbull thought it useful to announce, publicly, that Australia’s purpose in the Middle East is to kill as many ISIS as possible. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 3 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. The Abbott and Turnbull legacy on climate change and energy policy.

This is a repost of an article that was originally posted on 15 February 2017. I have reposted this in light of current controversy on the Finkel Report.

Let’s be clear, the Coalition and particularly the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull are responsible for the current mess and impasse on electricity prices and reliability and supply. This is the result of years of policy and political failure. We are now seeing the dreadful consequences.   Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Economy, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

JOHN AUSTEN. Infrastructure misuse and mistakes – the Hume Highway.

The value of infrastructure depends on how well it is used. Australia’s main infrastructure problem is misuse of what we have; a symptom of an absence of sensible policies, advisory failures and lobbying to build monuments to keep the concrete flowing.

This article, about the Hume Highway, is the first in a series on this issue. Misuse of the Hume, Australia’s most important highway, has damaged the rail and trucking industries, caused harmful traffic in Sydney and led to sub-optimal locations of industry. The solutions – highway charging and removal of unnecessary truck restrictions – are well known; the continuing stubborn inaction on these is a sad reflection on Australia’s infrastructure advisers and decision makers.  Continue reading

Posted in Infrastructure, Transport | Leave a comment

JOHN QUIGGIN. The OECD joins the backlash against unfettered globalisation

The OECD, in a recent report, has recognised that globalisation has many dimensions. Its enthusiasm for globalisation is undiminished, but it does acknowledge that the costs of globalisation “have been larger, more localised and more durable than previously thought, and that this is one source of disaffection with globalisation”. In a challenge to conventional wisdom it suggests that governments should seek to restore progressivity to their tax and welfare systems. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Economy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

David Ben-Tovim, Some private hospitals are safer than others, but we don’t know which

Our research has shown that some private hospitals are safer than others, but from the data we analysed we couldn’t tell which. Governments should balance commercial interests against the public’s right to know which hospital is providing safe, high-quality care. Continue reading

Posted in Health | Leave a comment

MUNGO MacCALLUM. The Finkel Report and Malcolm Turnbull – compromising at the expense of the planet.

It has little if anything to do with the real issues around climate change: it is all about satisfying Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen and Eric Abetz.  Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Economy, Environment, Politics | 1 Comment

GILES PARKINSON. Finkel decoded: The good, the bad, and the very disappointing

The Finkel Report on the future of the national electricity market falls short of its opportunity to redefine energy markets. It has been focused on trying to find a pathway through the toxic energy politics in Australia, and accommodating the Coalition’s modest climate targets, rather than seizing the moment and outlining what can and should happen, and what Australia would need to do to meet the Paris climate targets.

Posted in Climate change, Economy, Environment | 2 Comments

MARK BEESON. Dysfunction rules, OK?

Britain’s election result was a shock, even in today’s volatile political climate.  The outcome is potentially disastrous, but it is unclear whether Corbyn could have pursued his agenda even if he had actually won. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

GEOFF DAVIES. The UK election: lessons for Australian stunned mullets

The UK election result is heartening, joining a series of demonstrations that people want positive change. But in Australia we seem to be paralysed, no-one willing to pick up the torch, many still unwilling to change their old allegiances despite the manifest destruction around us. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ANDREW FARRAN. Britain and Brexit: The Starting Pistol Fires!

No amount of political pressure from the EU would force Britain to accept a package it doesn’t want, and vice versa. A closure without agreement because of the Article 50 deadline would be an ‘own goal’ for all parties. Yet we may be seeing another replay of familiar European conflict themes, a century after these were intended to be put to bed. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Foreign Policy | Leave a comment

IAN MCAULEY. Learning from the UK election

There are many local factors explaining the comparative fortunes of Theresa May’s Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in last week’s UK election. Issues around Brexit are unique to the UK, and May’s campaign was inept. But Corbyn’s comparative success, in defiance of the assumptions of the media and self-appointed policy elites, carries a message that goes beyond Britain, all the way to our own democracy. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MICHAEL KEATING. The British Election and Brexit

Mrs. May called the election ostensibly to strengthen her mandate in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. Although she failed to strengthen her majority, it is doubtful if the election result will have any impact on the Brexit negotiations. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on MICHAEL KEATING. The British Election and Brexit

ALLAN PATIENCE. It’s Time for New Politics.

How do we explain the phenomenon of a Bernie Sanders, who almost certainly would have won the US presidency if he’d been the Democrat candidate running against Trump? How do we account for the astounding failure of, first, David Cameron and now Theresa May, to maintain the Conservative Party’s dominance of contemporary British politics? How is it that a political maverick like Jeremy Corbyn can drag a recalcitrant British Labour Party kicking and screaming to the brink of government in the UK? These questions point to the failure of old politics and the urgent need to imagine a new politics for progressing the West into the twenty-first century. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

DUNCAN MACLAREN. May’s Folly: the Brexit election result

The people who will suffer most from economic meltdown likely to follow from the UK election will be the country’s poorest and most vulnerable as funds dry up for public services, jobs disappear as firms move to the EU and as the UK’s international reputation for sound, stable government that attracts investors plummets. Continue reading

Posted in Democratic Renewal, Economy, Politics | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on DUNCAN MACLAREN. May’s Folly: the Brexit election result